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Shared Services in the news

My research involves IT Shared Services. Shared Services is a management concept which has been around since the late 80’s. Often when new articles and press releases come out they pop up on my radar.

I thought I’d share a few good ones that I have seen in the past few months:

In the general Shared Services area (not IT-specific):

The Process is the Punishment

How true that statement is, well sometimes. In a recent meeting, I sat by Wendy Gaustaferro from the Criminal Justice department. The Process is the PunishmentShe was preparing to teach a class ideas presented in Feeley’s 1979 “The process is the punishment“, which describes the lower criminal courts of new haven Connecticut. After months of observing the Court of Common Pleas, Feeley writes:

“Jammed every morning with a new mass of arrestees who have been picked up the night before, lower courts rapidly process what the police consider to be ‘routine’ problems – barroom brawls, neighborhood squabbles, domestic disputes, welfare cheating, shoplifting, drug possession, and prostitution – not ‘real’ crimes. These courts are chaotic and confusing; officials communicate in a verbal shorthand wholly unintelligble to accused and accuser alike, and they seem to make arbitrary decision, sending one person to jail and freeing the next.”

As I understand it, the basic idea of the book  is that having to go through the court process is punishment in itself. Apart from the courts there are plenty of punishing processes. DMVs, Departments of Watershed Management Offices, all conjure an image of punishing lines and archaic forms.   Within the enterprise, it is often these punishing processes which lead many to take the easiest but less efficient route. All the more reason for Business Process Management and Improvement.

Virtual Computing Labs for students through Amazon Web Services

I have seen some excitement about Virtual Computing Labs for students. This allows students to access software and resources from their home that normally would only be available to them from an on campus computer lab. A need for mobile educational resources, and dropping technology costs are driving the introduction of virtual computing lab environments.

Virtual Computing Labs also solve an age-old problem for students and professors alike. Student’s laptops have various flavors of (often unkempt) operating systems on them, they often encounter snags when installing larger pieces of software (e.g. ones that need SQLServer or IIS to run). By having access to a virtual computer these problems can be avoided.

Traditionally VCL environments are made possible by server arrays in data centers in a university data center. Today such technology is only available to a few faculty within a very small percentage of universities. Amazon Web Services allow students to remotely connect to machines (Windows 2008 in my case), regardless of their host OS, where they can install any software they wish. Best of all, they are only charged for how long they use the machine.

In December 2009 Amazon announced it is possible to stop and start servers, thereby not loosing any of your data that prior to that would have been lost on terminating the server. In February 2010 Amazon announced consolidated billing, which it would make it easy for a professor to foot the bill for the students. Just hope that the student’s do not forget to “stop” their instances. In April 2009 Amazon announced AWS in Education grants — which give instructors $100 in AWS credits (to give to each student).

How much does this cost?

Well if you get the $100 Education Grant from Amazon… nothing.

If the students use the instance of the machine for an average of 5 hours each week over the course of a 16 week semester the cost would be: 5 hours X 16 weeks = 80 hours @ 12.5 cents an hour = 10$. In addition, the students would need to pay for the persistent storage of their data. This would be 10 cents per gigabyte per month: 30 gigabytes x 10 cents per month = $3 per month or $12 for the semester. This is easily within the $100 education credit from Amazon. And this also assumes that the students “stop” their instance when they are done using it.

I don’t work for Amazon, but I think this service can solve many potential headaches for professors and students alike at almost no cost. It’s also fun… Students get to setup their own servers in the cloud, and who wouldn’t be excited to do that?

If you want to try it out, follow all the directions at EC2 for Poets! And if you have any problems, leave a comment here…

Open innovation in education, OLEDs, and Nature

Mozilla, Creative Commons, and P2P University announced a new open innovation initiative to partner with educators in extending Mozilla’s role in the education space. This post has more about Mozilla’s strategic position to engage in the open innovation process build educational materials.

Innocentive and Nature just announced a partnership of somekind to engage scientists in solving global scientific challenges. It is refreshing to see this large publisher getting involved in such a worthwhile endevor. Perhaps this is in response to MIT’s announcement to make all it’s faculties scientific papers available for free on the internet.

Lastly, Novaled, an OLED maker, and Holst Centre, an open innovation R&D company announced a partnership.

Read Pascal Finette’s blog about the interesting name change for the LinkedIn Open Innovation group.

The best, free online GMAT study resource

When the subject of GMAT comes up in conversation, I always want to share the best online resource that I found when studying for it. It currently can be found in word document form here. It helped me learn the tricks of the GMAT. Hope it helps you.